The Civil War's monstrous appetite for iron - for horse shoes, artillery, cannon balls, rifles, and armor plate - exposed the greatest obstacle to iron production in Moriah: getting ore from the mines to the lake shore. Even 100 teams of horses hauling wagons down the Plank Road could not keep up with the demand from iron furnaces in Troy, New York and as far away as western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
As soon as the war was over and capital could be raised, work began on the Lake Champlain and Moriah Railroad. The route climbed 1309 feet in elevation over 7.5 miles, one of the steepest grades in the country. Three switch-backs (known as "Ys") were required to clear the incline. The rail line dropped the cost of transporting ore to 32 cents per ton and fueled a production boom that would last a century.
[Photo captions, from left to right, read]
· Two steam locomotives flank a train of eleven "Jimmy" cars climbing the railroad embankment above Port Henry. Dual engines helped the train negotiate "Y's," where the train would pull into a dead end track, passing over a switch. When the switch was thrown, the train could proceed further up the hill, in a process called "slabbing." Detail, Bird's Eye View of Port Henry (1889), courtesy of the Town Historian.
· A passenger station opened in 1872 at the east end
of the railroad bridge that crossed lower Broad Street. Passengers could leave Port Henry at 10. The return train left Mineville at 11AM. Afternoon service was also available. Tickets cost 25 cents. Town of Moriah Historical Society collection.
· Engine shops, completed in 1873, serviced the Baldwin steam locomotives. Town of Moriah Historical Society collection.
· Sanborn Insurance Company Map courtesy of Essex County Historical Society.